I recently learned that the Virginia State Board of Social Services is considering potential changes to adoption rules in the Commonwealth. I am writing with recommendations based on my expertise as a social scientist whose research focuses on issues related to sexual orientation. I now work as a faculty member at the University of Maryland, but, before this position, I was tenured as a professor in the Commonweather in the Department of Psychology at George Mason University.
A rapidly growing body of research suggests that children raised by same-sex couples do not differ from children raised by heterosexual couples on all indices of psychosocial well-being and educational adjustment. Notably, this body of research includes studies that have used probability samples (commonly referred to as "random samples"), ensuring that results from other studies do not represent a mere artifact of sampling bias. In short, data indicate that same-sex parents can provide children with every bit as optimal an environment for development as heterosexual parents. Although more research is needed on child outcomes with male same-sex couples and with adoptive same-sex couples, current knowledge strongly suggests that such outcomes should be somparable with those for heterosexual parents.
In my view, the primary consideration in determining the fitness of prospective adoptive parents is the degree to which they are able to provide children with a home environment that supports their physical, psychological, and educational well-being. From this perspective, the sexual orientation of prospective parents should not be a factor in adoption rules because there is no evidence that parent sexual orientation plays a role in the well-being of children. The pressing need for high quality foster care and adoption placements further highlights the social value of considering lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as foster and adoptive parents.
For these reasons, I strongly recommend that the new adoption rules be framed so as to clarify that (a) the best interests of the child be the sole factor in adoption and foster care placement decisions, and (b) discrimination based on prospective parents' sexual orientation not be allowed by the Commonwealth or state-licensed child placement agencies within the Commonwealth.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can do anything to further support the recommendations I have made here.